The Ultimate Buyer’s Guide to Robot Vacuums 2017

The invention of robot vacuum cleaner is not something new. In fact, it has been around for more than two decades now, since the introduction of the Electrolux Trilobite, back in 1996.

The iRobot Roomba became a sensational hit in 2002, and ever since then, the market are slowly adapting the robot vacuum technology in their household.

The past few years have seen a significant increase in interest in robot vacuum technology. Well, not just the robot vacuum itself, but rather in the smart home technology in general, from smart doorbells to security cameras.

The huge leap of technological advancements has allowed newer robot vacuum products to be more practical in everyday household usage. Features like the ability to recognize your layout and potential obstacles, as well as smart ways to detect dirt are just a few of what the robot vacuum products have to offer nowadays.

In this article, we will discuss ten of the best robot vacuum products available in the market. However, before we delve deeper into each of the product, it’s important that we first understood the principle and the key qualities behind a good robot vacuum product.

Without further ado, let us begin by discussing the different types of robot vacuums available today.

Types of Robot Vacuums

There are many ways to categorize robot vacuums, mainly due to the vast diversity of the various products available in the market today. However, even with all the unique features, it all boils down to two distinct group based on its cleaning patterns.

Random Pattern

As the name suggests, this type of robot vacuum will clean your household area in a seemingly random pattern.

This type doesn’t have a built-in mapping technology, thus, you will only have a limited control over the cleaning area.

One thing to remember, although this type doesn’t have any mapping technology, all robot vacuums have some form of avoidance technology. We will discuss the different types of avoidance technology further below in the key features section.

One common reason to purchase this type is that it is significantly more affordable. If you will only be using the robot vacuum in a small area, or your house only has a small number of rooms, this type might be a better overall choice.

Mapped Pattern

As we have briefly discussed above, this type of robot vacuum has some form of integrated mapping technology. As a result, this type of robot vacuum cleaners often has better cleaning efficiency. The automation process is also often better, both in the sense of time and placement.

There are many different mapping technologies utilized in robot vacuums today, but commonly it can be divided into two big groups: laser mapping and visual mapping.

Visual mapping technology, commonly utilizing digital cameras, is deemed the superior one, mainly because laser mapping usually has issues with shadows and can falsely recognize obstacles.

The latest visual technology used in robot vacuums is known as Visual Simultaneous Localization and Mapping (SLAM), where the robot can simultaneously keep track of its position while mapping out new terrain in real-time. As a result, the robot can avoid obstacles much better, while also increase the overall efficiency of the cleaning process.

As the downside, robot vacuums with mapping technology are often more expensive. The better the mapping technology used, the more expensive it will be.

Key Features

With the wide array of different robot vacuum products available in the market today, it’s hard to keep track and list all the unique features of each product.

However, here are some of the key features you might have to consider before making your purchase.

Avoidance Technology

As mentioned above, not all robot vacuums have their integrated mapping technologies. However, having at least the simplest form of avoidance technology is a necessity for any robot vacuums.

There are many forms of avoidance technology utilized in various robot vacuum products. However, at a bare minimum, a robot vacuum will have cliff sensors to avoid cliff surfaces, such as stairs. Older models often utilize bumpers as the most basic technology to avoid obstacles.

With bumpers, the robot vacuum will recognize after it has hit an object, and then will move to another direction.

Newer models utilize all sorts of different technologies, such as infrared sensors. Some robot vacuums also combine the avoidance technology with their integrated mapping technology, using digital and infrared cameras. Newer high-end robot vacuums even utilize ultrasonic frequency technology.

Mapping Technology

We have discussed how robot vacuums utilized the mapping technology above, so refer to the Types of Robot Vacuums section.

Cleaning Features

While the most important feature of any robot vacuums is the ability to move around effectively while avoiding obstacles, the second most important feature is the ability to clean.

As with the avoidance and mapping technologies, there is also a wide array of diversity in robot vaccums’s cleaning technology. Some of the most common ones are:

  • Traditional brush – Quite similar to what you usually find in a traditional upright vacuum. Plastic or nylon hairs are utilized to sweep up dirt and dust. Commonly found in most lower end robot vacuum products.
  • Bladed Brush – In this type of brush, rubber ‘blades’ are incorporated into the design. These rubber blades are more effective in cleaning up pet hair.
  • Combo Brush – While the bladed brush is better in cleaning pet hairs and similar dirt, traditional bristle brush is better in cleaning smaller dust particles. This designed combined the both of them to gain both benefits.
  • Brushless – As the name suggests, no brush is utilized by the robot vacuum in its cleaning process. In its basic principle, the brushless robot vacuum will operate like a suction hose. This design is a bit rare and is not as effective on rugs or carpets.

Other factors that might affect the cleaning process are:

  • Suction Strength – The strength of the motor and the overall design will affect the overall suction strength. Although on hard surfaces, the difference is minimal, it will be noticeable on carpets, rugs, and similar surfaces where stronger suction is necessary, On the other hand, stronger suction strength might increase the noise level of the robot, which might be disruptive for some. Higher end models usually have several strength settings to tackle this issue.
  • Brush Position – There are typically three common positions for the primary brush: front, center, and back. Although the effectiveness of the position will vary depending on the technology used, in general, the front position is the most effective. The key disadvantage of placing the brush in the center or the back is that the dirt material will touch a significant amount of the robot vacuum surface before the brush or suction hole. Thus, the dirt will collect on the underside of the vacuum, and will require regular cleaning and maintenance.
  • Dry/Wet Mop – Most of the robot vacuums available nowadays are using dry mop feature, using a microfiber cloth or similar material to collect dust and dirt. Some robot vacuum products are offering the wet mop function, using a moistened cloth designed to clean the area more thoroughly.However, of all the robot vacuum products available today, none are offering a significantly useful wet mop function, mainly because of the lack of downward force necessary for an effective wet mopping.

Smart Connectivity

A relatively new feature found on the newer robot vacuum products is the ability to wirelessly connect to smartphone or tablet, along with the inclusion of the companion app.

This allows a better range of personalized control, such as smart scheduling, monitoring, and remote control. Some robot vacuums even provide live video feed straight to the mobile app.

Lower end robot vacuums often use basic radio frequency connection with a simple remote control. Although not as useful as having a smart app to assist, a remote control will certainly help to avoid having to constantly move the robot around.

Battery Power and Charging Station

Even the best and the most expensive robot vacuum products nowadays can only manage roughly the maximum of 2-hours of active time before it will need to charge itself.

Remember, robot vacuums work much slower than a traditional upright vacuum, and with an average battery power of 1 to 1.5-hours, it might not be enough to clean your whole household.

With that in mind, having an automatic charging function is certainly a plus point.
Some robot vacuums have the ability to return to its charging station on its own and resume its operation once it’s fully charged.

After we have thoroughly discussed the main features a robot vacuum should have, let us move on to the product recommendation.

10 Top Rated Robotic Vacuums

Keep in mind that the products on this list are in no particular order, and we will discuss our definite choices further below.

iRobot Roomba 650

The brand iRobot Roomba should need no introduction, as they are one of, if not the most recognizable name in the world of robot vacuum nowadays.

iRobot Roomba 650 Robotic Vacuum CleanerThe Roomba 650 is the cheapest entry from iRobot but doesn’t mean it’s cheap in features.Using dual brushes and a high-quality motor, the cleaning power is powerful enough to clean any surface. The avoidance technology utilized by the Roomba 650 is superb and is one of the best among its competition.

The major downside, compared to other Roomba products available today is the lack of any mapping technology. Thus, the Roomba 650 can be included in the random pattern category. Another issue you might consider is the battery power, as it only has a maximum capacity of around 45 to 60 minutes. However, the ability to return to its docking station and resume cleaning after charging could tackle that issue.

Although its functionality is very basic, at least compared to the higher-end Roombas, this product does benefit from the wide array of accessories from iRobot, which can help strengthen its functionalities.

Here are some of the key qualities we liked and disliked from the product:

PROS:
  • Efficient avoidance technology and cleaning pattern
  • Wide array of accessories from remote control to side brush module
  • Excellent durability
  • Easy to use

CONS:
  • Low battery power, extended battery module available separately
  • Limited feature compared to other Roomba products

Bottom Line

The entry level iRobot Roomba is certainly nothing to laugh at. It is one of the excellent choices with affordable price tag out there.

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iRobot Roomba 880

Until recently, the iRobot Roomba 880 was considered the most premium and powerful robot vacuum product available in the market. The introduction of the newer, more powerful Roomba 980 effectively dethroned the Roomba 880, but that doesn’t mean the 880 has lost its value by any standard.

iRobot Roomba 880 Robotic Vacuum Cleaner

In fact, considering the Roomba 880 got a significant price cut due to the introduction of the 980, it might have the best overall value for your money.

The Roomba 880 retains all the basic functionality you can find in the Roomba 650, which we have discussed above. In addition, the 880 model utilized one of the most advanced multi-room navigation technology, deemed the iAdapt Navigation, tangle-free extractors to prevent clogging, HEPA-style filtering for cleaner air and prevents allergy, and the Virtual Wall technology, where you can map the operational area of the Roomba depending on your needs.

It is definitely one of the most superior product out there today, but here are some pros and cons of the Roomba 880.

PROS:
  • High-tech features in all aspects
  • Very efficient cleaning and avoidance technology
  • Automatic mode transition for different surfaces, from thick carpets to hardwoods
  • Advanced mapping technology with iAdapt Navigation
  • Virtual Wall technology

CONS:
  • Relatively few available accesories
  • Expensive replacement parts

Bottom Line

Because of the release of the Roomba 980, the significant price cut made this product a great bargain. Excellent overall feature.

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iRobot Roomba 980

We have mentioned a bit about of the Roomba 980 above, and the newest addition to the iRobot Roomba line definite lives up to expectation.

iRobot Roomba 980 Robotic Vacuum Cleaner

Being a relatively new product, and being a high-end one, we can expect that the price tag of the iRobot Roomba 980 is more on the expensive side. However, the Roomba 980 is a clear upgrade from the 880 model with the new iAdapt 2.0 Navigation, more intelligent cleaning pattern, and most importantly, a smart WiFi connectivity to cater the needs of smart households nowadays.

The iAdapt 2.0 Navigation utilize a full visual recognition technology with a digital camera sensor, opposed to the sensor-only approach we can find on the Roomba 880.

For its cleaning capability, the Roomba 980 is equipped with a revamped AeroForce cleaning system, which provides more effective agitation and brushing performance across all surfaces. The 980 model is also further optimized to clean carpets and rugs with the new Carpet Boost technology, and the automatic mode transition between different surfaces is smoother.

Arguably the most advanced robot vacuum available today, here are some of the qualities we liked and disliked from the Roomba 980.

PROS:
  • State-of-the-art features
  • Efficient and powerful cleaning capabilities across all surfaces
  • Automatic adjustment between different surfaces, more seamless compared to the 880
  • iAdapt 2.0 Navigation technology with digital visual camera
  • Virtual Wall technology

CONS:
  • Relatively pricey, both for the product itself and replacement parts
  • Few accessories available

Bottom Line

The best of the best from iRobot, and that alone is saying a lot. If the price tag is not a problem for you, it is definitely the best option for you, comparable only to the Neato Botvac Connected (discussed below).

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ILIFE V3S

Finally, something in this list that is not from iRobot. The ILIFE V3S is an interesting addition, mainly because of its well-rounded functionality, albeit being one of the most affordable options.

ILIFE V3s Robotic Vacuum Cleaner for Pets and Allergies Home

You can get an ILIFE V3X for less than $200, and yet you will get a robot vacuum that can both vacuum and mop, can be used on different surfaces like tile floors and hardwood, can pick up pet hairs, and comes with a remote. It also has a decent scheduling feature rarely found in products with similar price range.

With a relatively cheap price tag, the ILIFE V3S brought a very decent basic functionality comparable to more expensive options.

Also, one of its unique advantages is that it’s very small and low-profile, so you can use the V3s to clean under your beds, sofa, and other hidden areas.

Here are some of the pros and cons of the ILIFE V3S:

PROS:
  • Relatively good battery life for its size and price can last 100 minutes before the need to recharge
  • Very affordable
  • Vacuum and Mopping function
  • Very easy to use
  • Can work on different surfaces, tile, hardwood, and carpet

CONS:
  • Relatively ineffective on thick carpets
  • Can have issues in finding its charging station
  • Relatively random pattern and often get stuck

Bottom Line

A great value with excellent basic functionality. If you are looking for a hybrid vacuum and mopper, this one is for you.

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Neato Botvac D80

Neato Botvac is another famous brand in the robot vacuum market, comparable to the iRobot Roomba. The D80 is not the highest-end product of Neato, with the Botvac Connected being the most advanced (and expensive). However, the only difference between the Botvac D80 and the Connected Model is the WiFi connectivity and companion app, for a significant price difference.

Neato Botvac D80 Robot Vacuum for Pets and Allergies

Being one of the biggest contenders for the iRobot Roomba, one of the greatest features of the Botvac D80 is its battery life. You can get almost 2 whole hours of active battery life, however, the charging time also tends to be long.

The mapping and cleaning technology is comparable to those of Roomba 880, although we felt the suction power is a little bit better on the Neato Botvac D80.

Here are some of the qualities we liked and disliked from the product.

PROS:
  • Great battery life, can stay active almost two full hours
  • Great avoidance and mapping technology with the LaserSmart system
  • The D-Shaped design allows better cleaning of corners
  • Great suction power
  • Excellent cleaning with three different brushes

CONS:
  • Long charging time
  • Have the tendency to get stuck on chair legs
  • Need regular cleaning from hairs, rug tassels, or similar material that can get sucked

Bottom Line

One of the most advanced options available in the market today, comparable to the iRobot Braava 880 with a cheaper price tag. Arguably a better investment overall if the long charging time is not a problem for you.

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iRobot Braava 380t Mopping Robot

Another one from iRobot, the Braava series is the mopping robot sister of the Roomba brand. Although technically it is a robot mopping, not a robot vacuum, the iRobot Braava is currently very popular, so we thought that the inclusion in this list is a must.iRobot Braava 380t Mopping RobotThe iRobot Braava 380t can clean your floors with two different functions: dry sweeping with iRobot’s microfiber cleaning cloth or damp mopping with iRobot’s disposable cleaning clothes.

The damp mopping function is very effective in cleaning your areas, although it could be harmful to hardwood floors. The downside is, you will need to constantly re-purchase the disposable clothes, which could be significant in the long run.

The Northstar Navigation technology utilized as its mapping/avoidance technology is superb, and the Braava 380t rarely got stuck during its cleaning process.

In addition, the Braava 380t is one of the more affordable options compared to other iRobot products and is certainly a good value.

Here are some pros and cons of the product.

PROS:
  • Excellent cleaning process, both dry and damp
  • Good battery life and fast charging
  • Superb mapping and avoidance technology
  • Compact in size and very durable
  • Good value for money

CONS:
  • Not technically a vacuum
  • The long-term cost for the disposable cloth can add up
  • Not suitable for hardwood floors

Bottom Line

If you are strictly looking for a mopper, the Braava 380t is certainly one of, if not the best option out there.

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ILIFE A4

Another addition from the ILIFE series. While the ILIFE V3S is a vacuum/mopping hybrid, the A4 is a dedicated robot vacuum with a similar, very affordable price tag.

ILIFE A4 Robot Vacuum CleanerYou will find the excellent battery life found in the ILIFE V3S, and the A4 can actively clean your house for 2-hours, and even 3-hours with a lighter cleaning duty.

The avoidance technology is also similar to that of the V3S, and retains some of its core issues. However, being a dedicated robot vacuum, the suction motor is more powerful,

Again, if you are looking for an affordable robot vacuum, the ILIFE A4 is definitely a good run for your money.

Here are some of the qualities we liked and disliked from the product.

PROS:
  • Very effective vacuum with powerful motor
  • Excellent battery life
  • Very affordable
  • Good size to clean under your furniture
  • Very easy to use
  • Can be used for different surfaces: tiles, hardwood, carpets

CONS:
  • Have issues in finding its charging station
  • Random pattern, often get stuck
  • Not very durable construction

Bottom Line

A great value for your money, great battery life, and excellent basic functionality.

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Neato Botvac Connected

We have discussed a bit about the Botvac Connected above in the Neato Botvac D80 section. As we have mentioned, the main difference between the Botvac Connected and the D80 is the smart connectivity and companion app.

Neato Botvac Connected Wi-Fi Enabled Robot Vacuum

The app itself is a major highlight, providing a useful data of the cleaning pattern, the ability to adjust and monitor schedule, and push notifications if the Botvac Connected got stuck or need troubleshooting.

In short, the Botvac Connected is simply one of the most advanced and premium options you can have today, comparable to the iRobot Roomba 980. The Botvac Connected also feature the ability to adjust between eco and turbo mode to save its already outstanding battery life.

The biggest issue you might have about this product is its price and its rather unconventional D-shaped design, which might not be for everyone and can have the tendency to get stuck in a dense area.

Here are some of the pros and cons of the product:

PROS:
  • Advanced technology in all aspects
  • Smart connectivity with a great companion smartphone app
  • Excellent Battery Life
  • Very powerful cleaning power
  • D-Shaped design allows easier cleaning of corners

CONS:
  • The D-Shaped design can get stuck on chairs and cords
  • Long charging time
  • Relatively expensive

Bottom Line

If you are looking for the most advanced, premium option, your choice is between the Neato Botvac Connected or the iRobot Roomba 980. The Cleaning process of the 980 is slightly better, but the app of the Botvac
Connected is better.

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Neato Botvac D5 Connected

Another one from Neato, and as the name ‘connected’ suggests, the D5 Connected is another newer option with smart WiFi connectivity. The D5 is the middle level of the Botvac Connected series, with the D3 Connected being the entry level.

Neato Botvac D5 Connected Navigating Robot VacuumFeature-wise, we can put the D5 connected between the Botvac D80 and the Botvac Connected. As mentioned, it gets the WiFi connectivity feature and the awesome smartphone app, but it sacrifices the spiral blade brush feature found on both the D80 and Connected.

The spiral blade brush is effective to clean pet hairs or similar dirt, so if you are willing to sacrifice that feature in exchange for the smartphone control, this is a better choice compared to the D80.

Other features are very similar to both the D80 and the Connected, and retains many of its advantages as well as disadvantages.

Here are some pros and cons of the product.

PROS:
  • Smart WiFi connectivity and great smartphone app
  • D-shaped design to effectively clean corners and areas near the wall
  • Excellent battery life
  • Great vacuum suction power
  • Excellent mapping and avoidance technology

CONS:
  • Less effective to clean pet hairs
  • Long charging time
  • The D-shaped design has the tendency to get stuck

Bottom Line

With a similar price tag to the Botvac D80, the key difference is their ability to clean pet hairs, in exchange of the great smartphone app control. If you are looking for a relatively affordable product with WiFi connectivity and great companion app, this one is for you.

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ILIFE V5S

Another entry from the ILIFE brand, and as you may expect, this model retains the key values of the ILIFE series: affordability.

ILIFE V5s Robot Vacuum Cleaner with Water Tank Mopping

Similar to the V3S, the ILIFE V5s combines both vacuum and mopping function into one, with the extra function of having a wet/damp mopping option with its own water tank. If you have the need for the extra cleaning functionality of the wet mopping, this could be a great affordable option.

Other key features remain similar to the V3S, and this model also has the excellent battery capacity found in other ILIFE products.

Here are some of the qualities we liked and disliked from the product:

PROS:
  • Excellent battery life
  • Very affordable
  • Powerful motor and very effective vacuum power
  • Good small size, able to clean under your furniture
  • Simple and easy to use
  • Wet mopping function

CONS:
  • Have issues in finding its charging station
  • Random pattern, often get stuck
  • Not very durable construction

Bottom Line

The key value here is the wet mopping function, and although we felt that the technology has not been perfected yet, this product offers some of the best wet mopping option available in the market today, at an very affordable price.

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Best Robotic Vacuum

As we have promised, in this section we will choose several products which, in our opinion, is the best of the best in their categories.

Choosing just one product, out of so many great products with different values and unique features, is certainly not an easy task. However, for the sake of this guide, here they are, our editor’s choices:

Best Robot Vacuum for Pet Hairs

We chose this category mainly because this is a question we received very often, and we understood the unique needs of having pets in your households.

Without further ado, our choice in this category goes to:

iRobot Roomba 980

The Roomba 880 often has issues with pet hairs and thick rug surfaces. That issue is brilliantly tackled in the Roomba 980. The new AeroForce cleaning system allows more powerful suction not to allow any pet hair left on your floors.

On the other hand, the new tangle-free extractors will prevent the pet hairs from clogging the Roomba.

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Best Overall Robot Vacuum

Another tough choice, with so many factors to consider. However, after a long, endless debates among our team, our choice again goes to:

iRobot Roomba 980

Yes, it’s a little expensive, and the price point might not be for everyone. However, if you can get pass the price tag, the Roomba 980 is certainly a great investment across all aspects.iRobot Roomba 980 Robotic Vacuum Cleaner

The smartphone connectivity and the app are great (although for the app, we slightly prefer Neato’s). The cleaning technology is nothing short of excellent. The mapping and avoidance technology are simply the most advanced among all its competitions.

One word: excellent

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Best Budget Robot Vacuum Choice

We understood that not all of us are looking for the most advanced product out there, and we also understood that some, if not most of us will have budget issues.

There are many cheap robot vacuum products available today, but the key is to have an affordable product that is also durable and can do its job.

Therefore, our choice goes to:

iRobot Roomba 650

Yes, there are certainly cheaper options available in the market and even some on this list.

iRobot Roomba 650 Robotic Vacuum Cleaner

However, the iRobot Roomba 650, in our opinion is the best balance you can get for its price and overall quality.

It is relatively durable compared to other affordable options, has a very good avoidance technology so it will spend more time cleaning rather than getting stuck, and the cleaning technology itself is superb. A great overall value.

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Conclusion

With so many available products in the market, each with their unique features and value, apparently iRobot Roomba line is still the reigning king of the robot vacuum market.

That’s not saying other brands and products won’t have their value. The Neato Botvac line, for example, has better battery power and slightly more powerful vacuum. The app for the Botvac Connected, in our opinion, is superior compared to that of iRobot’s, at least for now.

The ILIFE series can be good options if you are looking for cheaper alternatives.

No matter what your choice is, remember to take time to set up the product and the scheduling feature, if available. Being a robot first, and vacuum second, automation should be its first and foremost feature, and you should take the time to set it up.

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